Grantwriting A-Z

A is for accuracy

Imagine a conference table surrounded by 14 busy professionals and influential community leaders. The Executive Director of the Foundation and a key Program Officer are also at the table. Next to each of them are stacks of grant proposals that have been mailed to them for review prior to this allocations meeting. Each person has stacked them in priority order based upon their personal decisions. Which grants do you suppose are at the bottom of the stack? Worse yet, which grants are no longer in the stack?

In the very competitive world of grant selection and approval, grants that contain inaccurate information — both mathematical and grammatical — are almost always immediately discarded from the decision making process.

These grant applications often do not get read in totality for merit or content. Why? Because the last place an allocations committee wants to direct a foundation’s money is to an organization that doesn’t appear to have the ability to add correctly or proofread. How good a steward of the foundation’s money would the recipient be if their attention to detail is so poor that they cannot submit an accurate proposal? If all other things are equal in a reviewer’s mind, this one detail tips the scale.

I firmly believe in the world of community foundations, corporate foundations, and state and federal government funding sources, decisions of which proposals merit further review — and which don’t – are made very rapidly.

Assessing Proposal Merit

The first thing the reviewer, program officer or committee member reads is the cover letter and cover page. This rapid overview conveys to the reader the intent of the proposal, the project’s description, who is requesting the gift, and how much money is needed.

Most importantly, it should convey a viable need and a compelling case so the reviewer reads further. If there are grammatical errors on the cover page or omissions of requested information on the cover sheet, it sends an immediate negative message to the grant reviewer. In many cases, the grant application is put aside for the “no” pile at this point.

The next page reviewed is often the budget page. To a busy committee member, how much is wanted this year, next year and for what purposes can be easily assessed by flipping immediately to the budget page before taking the time to read the full grant application.

The reader has already decided if there is an interest in the project from the cover page and cover sheet. Accuracy on the budget page is critical. Does the math add up? Do expenses equal income? Are you requesting items listed in the foundation guidelines that are not fundable? And does the budget request amount match the requested amount on the cover page? This sounds so simple but it is the most common mistake made on grant proposals.

Many grant writers begin with the cover page and cover letter because it contains very basic information on the agency, the project, etc. At this early stage, the grant writer has a request dollar amount in mind, so that number is filled in. However, time passes and the grant project changes and evolves as it is written based upon new information, changes of thought, input from other individuals who are working on segments of the project, etc. The grant narrative gets written, the budget page is changed for the eighth time and completed, goals and objectives are charted, attachments are copied and voila, it’s done.

Finally, proofreaders review the main grant proposal. Budget errors are caught so everything is correct. The writing is tightened up. Hooray, it’s done! Meanwhile, the cover page and cover letter are in the CEOs office waiting to be signed….

Insuring Accuracy is Key

Has anyone reviewed the original cover page to see if the request amount still matches the grant? Has anyone reviewed the paragraph that explains the project to see if it has changed? No? Guess what? You just lost the grant.

I have a suggestion. Write the cover page last and have at least two other people proofread everything. This conveys to the reader you understand that accuracy is the first rule in grant writing and it saves a lot of headaches.

On September 26th, 2010, posted in: Foundations, Funding Sources, Grant Writing by

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